Kurdish militants warned that peace talks with the Turkish state
would come to an end if the Islamist insurgents were allowed to
carry out a massacre in the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani,
pressuring Ankara to act.
Islamic State fighters have taken control of hundreds of villages
around Kobani, beheading civilians in a bid to terrorise villagers
into submission, and have advanced to within kilometres of the town
on three sides.
In neighbouring Iraq, the insurgents have carried out mass
executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used
children as fighters in systematic violations that may amount to war
crimes, the United Nations said.
U.S. led forces, which have been bombing Islamic State targets
elsewhere in Syria since last week as well as in Iraq, hit a village
near Kobani on Wednesday and strikes were reported further south
overnight, Kurdish sources in the town said.
But they seemed to do little to stop the Islamists' advance.
"We left because we realised it was only going to get worse," said
Leyla, a 37-year old Syrian arriving at the Yumurtalik border
crossing with her six children after waiting 10 days in a field,
hoping the clashes would subside.
"We will go back tomorrow if Islamic State leaves. I don't want to
be here, I had never even imagined Turkey in my dreams before this,"
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which
monitors Syria's war, said heavy clashes between Islamic State and
Kurdish YPG fighters had been continuing on Kobani's eastern and
southeastern outskirts for the last 36 hours.
The sound of a large explosion was heard around midnight at the same
time as coalition planes were flying overhead, it said.
About 20 explosions were also heard in the areas of the Tishrin dam
and town of Manbij roughly 50 km (31 miles) south of Kobani,
resulting from missile strikes believed to be carried out by the
coalition, the Observatory said.
Asya Abdullah, a senior official in Syria's dominant Kurdish
political party the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said there were
clashes to the east, west and south of Kobani and that Islamic State
had advanced to within 2-3 km on all fronts.
"If they want to prevent a massacre (the coalition) must act much
more comprehensively," she told Reuters by phone from Kobani, adding
that air strikes elsewhere in Syria had pushed Islamic State
fighters towards the border town.
"We've been fighting ISIS with all our strength for 18 days to save
Kobani. We will continue the resistance ... Itís civilians who will
die if Kobani falls. But we will protect them."
PRESSURE ON TURKEY
Turkey's parliament will vote later on a motion which would allow
the government to authorise cross-border military incursions against
Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, and allow coalition forces
to use Turkish territory.
But President Tayyip Erdogan insists air strikes alone will not
contain the Islamic State threat and is calling for the ouster of
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an aim not shared by the U.S.-led
Turkey accuses Assad of stoking the growth of Islamic State through
sectarian policies and believes the stability on its 900 km (560
mile) border will only deepen if he clings to power.
It is also reluctant to take action that may strengthen Kurdish
fighters allied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant
group that has fought the Turkish state for three decades and with
which it is conducting fragile peace talks.
"If this massacre attempt achieves its goal it will end the process
(with Turkey)," PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said in a statement
released by a pro-Kurdish party delegation which visited him on
Wednesday in his island prison near Istanbul.
"I urge everyone in Turkey who does not want the process and the
democracy voyage to collapse to take responsibility in Kobani," he
said in the statement.
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Kurdish forces allied to the PKK, the People's Defence Units (YPG),
are fighting against the Islamic State insurgents attacking Kobani.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States
and European Union.
German lawmaker Rolf Muetzenich, a foreign and security policy
expert in the lower house for the Social Democrats (SPD) - junior
partners in the ruling coalition - said in a radio interview he
worried that Turkish intervention in Syria could end up targeting
the PKK and become "an additional conflict accelerator in an already
"EXISTENTIAL THREAT" TO TURKEY
Islamic State has carved out swathes of eastern Syria and western
Iraq in a drive to create a cross-border caliphate between the
Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, terrifying communities into
submission by slaughtering those who resist.
Iraqi Kurdish troops drove Islamic State fighters from a strategic
border crossing with Syria on Tuesday and won the support of members
of a major Sunni tribe, in one of the biggest successes since U.S.
forces began bombing the Islamists.
But militants took control of most of the western Iraqi town of Hit
in Anbar province early on Thursday, security sources and local
officials said. Most of the surrounding towns in Anbar province have
already fallen under Islamic State control.
The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq against the
militant group since July and in Syria since last week with the help
of Arab allies. Britain and France have also struck Islamic State
targets in Iraq.
But Islamic State fighters on the border with Turkey, which hosts a
U.S. air base at its southern town of Incirlik not so far used in
the air strikes, have yet to be dislodged.
"(Islamic State) is Turkey's greatest existential threat since 1946,
when Joseph Stalin demanded that Ankara cede control of the
Bosphorus and other territory to the Soviet Union," said Soner
Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington
"Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu know that only the
United States has the necessary military hardware and intelligence
assets to defeat ISIS in the long term," he said, forecasting that
while Turkey would offer logistics and intelligence support, it was
unlikely to wholeheartedly back a military strategy that does not
Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey's priority was also to enable
the 1.5 million refugees it has taken in from Syria's conflict to
return home. He has been pushing for a no-fly zone enforced by the
U.S.-led coalition to protect a safe haven on the Syrian side of the
border where refugees could be sheltered, an idea that has yet to
gain traction in Washington.
More than 150,000 refugees have fled Kobani over the past two weeks
alone, with a steady exodus continuing. Officials from Turkey's AFAD
disaster management agency said some 4,000 crossed on Wednesday, and
a similar figure the day before.
(Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul, Stephen Brown in
Berlin, Rahim Salman in Baghdad, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva;
Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Anna Willard)
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